Pity Sex – Feast of Love
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Record Label: Run for Cover
Not knowing exactly what Ann Arbor’s Pity Sex had in store for me but knowing they were on Run for Cover’s roster, I half-expected some variation of the emo-revival known affectionately (or disparagingly) as “twinkle daddies.” Instead, it turns out I was getting a band involved in a different sort of revival, a slowly gathering movement dedicated to bringing the shoegaze heyday of the early 90s into the modern era. Pity Sex’s debut, Feast of Love, looks like it’s going to be the record that drags this shoegaze revival out of my peripheral and puts it right in front of me.
The poppy opener “Wind Up,” replete with fuzzy guitar chords protruding through the wall of feedback and distortion, leaves the listener immediately smitten with the band. Co-vocalist Brennan Greaves manages to get himself through the wall as well, with a voice naturally suited to catchy hooks and ends up sounding closer to a melancholy Mark Hoppus than any variant of Kevin Shields. His female counterpart Britty Drake takes the reins on the following track, beginning an alternating schedule that persists throughout most of the record, barring the instances where they join together. Neither sound like they’re vying for control of the songs where both appear, preferring to work together to add yet more layers to the already thick sound of the songs. And both sound equally at home within the walls of sound, whether they’re supporting the speeding pop of “Wind Up” or the more measured tempo of closer “Fold.”
The lyrics, on the occasion where they become audible as actual words rather than just apathetic melodies and choruses, go tit-for-tat with last years stunning Now, Now release for unadulterated despondency and helplessness. On the slow, thoughtful burn of “Drown Me Out,” Brennan cries and “You’ve got a pretty way about you/when you drown me out/there’s nothing to talk about when we talk about love.” Considering the record is titled Feast of Love, this says a lot about where the records emotional core is located; whoever is writing the band’s lyrics, or if it’s a shared duty, clearly is a glutton for punishment. The lyrics are mostly written in this conversational style, though it often seems to be one-sided, as though the vocalists are cloying for the attention of, or arguing with, a phantom within their mind. Someone who’s left but who’s memory remains so tangible that they have been unable to uproot themselves from where they left. Nowhere is this more poignant than the Britty-led “Hollow Body,” where her voice is a clarion call, the most pristine, clean sound on the entire record, singing that “You live in the back of my throat. Folded up there. A memento. Your scent. Your memory. Muted and momentary. Heavy. The smell of sleep. Reminiscent. Bittersweet.” She is keenly aware of her inertness, but is trapped by the memory of the person she’s addressing her words to.
The lyrics are preoccupied with love and sex, a commonplace theme, but there are moments, like on “Honey Pot,” where those commonly explored ideas are done differently than the standard lovelorn pastiche that is so familiar to most. It’s times like this when the name “Pity Sex” takes on something more than attention grabbing novelty; the band is turning emotional stones that might otherwise be left unturned. The band plays in a rush, with the album clocking in at under 30 minutes, and in a haze of sound. It’s almost as if some of the content of the record is damaging enough that they are trying to sneak it past the ears of the listener, desperate to unload but knowing that in other circumstances they could be the ones given the verbal lashing by some of their emo-peers on Run For Cover.
The band never comes close to the addictive “Wind Up,” and it’s a shame that the first song on the record is so obviously the best. Their pop instincts never quite poke through the piles of guitar as cleanly as they do on that song. And despite the excellently dreary cleanness of “Hollow Body” on its own, placing it in the middle of a record of songs with a greater sense of drive disrupts the flow of the album. The album’s rushed pace is not all good, as it leaves the songs without enough time to develop into distinct entities. The “wall of sound” so often associated with shoegaze has been dropped in this review and elsewhere, and unfortunately Pity Sex often leave it a drab gray monolith, impressive for its existence but never capturing the imagination the way that a burst of color on the wall might. The closest to a splashing of paint on the wall comes in the distorted twang of “Drawstring,” and it’s enough to return attention to the final few tracks.
It’s easy to forgive Pity Sex for those shortcomings though, as attentive listening helps the record immensely, allowing one to feel and touch the nuances and craftsmanship in the overbearing sounds. The songs become more distinct, and the tag team vocals dance around the throbbing guitars in immensely pleasurable ways. For the shoegaze neophyte, Feast of Love is a debut filled with clouds of pedal effects and wailing vocals, but a more easily penetrated veil of sound today is hard to imagine. For all of the moments where the band would be better served by caving to their pop sensibilities, it remains a record clearly written by people with those talents, leaving It easy to commit the time necessary to mark tracks apart from one another.
Another good one, Ryan, though I must say even the briefest Now, Now mention has skyrocketed my excitement for this album which I was previously unaware of.
Hah, I'm not sure how obvious it'll be to others, but it was definitely what came to mind when I heard the delivery of some of the lyrics. Having a woman sing half the time definitely helped nudge me in that direction too I hope you enjoy it!
Incredible review man, you definitely touched all the bases I look for in a review. Though I haven't heard this album I fear that it suffers the same loss of momentum as Dark World.. just in a longer timeframe.